In March 2016, the National Gallery of Victoria will present the first major survey of Australian fashion. Comprising more than 120 garments from some 90 designers, the exhibition is a celebration of the unique nature of the country’s fashion industry. “Australian fashion design has been informed by its geography, resources, migration and its response to international trends,” said the gallery’s director, Tony Ellwood, at a press conference. “[This exhibition] will showcase the ways in which designers have responded to these conditions with ingenuity, humour and irony in dialogue with the wider world.”
Included will be pieces by contemporary designers Toni Maticevski, Ellery and Akira Isogawa, while the historic quotient of the exhibition is broken up into defining periods. Works by some of Australia’s earliest dressmakers and tailors demonstrate the ways in which they adapted traditional European dress to the Australian lifestyle and climate during the 19th century, while another section focuses on the output of department stores Buckley & Nunn, David Jones, Farmer and Co and Bright & Hitchcock’s, which were critical in disseminating fashionable dress during this period. Another highlight will be the vivid experimentation of designers during the 1960s and 70s, with works by Prue Acton and Jenny Kee.
International Woolmark Prize alumnus Dion Lee will present a newly commissioned work, evidence of his forward-thinking approach and innovative design practice. Alongside this new work, the hero garment from Lee’s 2013 Woolmark Prize capsule collection (pictured) – a felted wool coat which, using his signature technique of splicing and twisting – thwarts the traditional shape of the garment – will also be shown, evidence of its ongoing artistic appeal.200 Years of Australian Fashion will run at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, from 5 March – 31 July 2016.